Porcini-Dusted Scallops with an Enriched Mushroom Broth

by The Gilded Fork

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Scallops are an ideal food platform given their mild, meaty but neutral flavor.  Less will always be more when working with oceanic flavors.  To maximize the effect of the two flavor components here — the earth (mushrooms) and the sea (scallops) — an enriched broth is used, rather than a sauce.  Whereas any sauce can overwhelm or even mask the desirable flavors of a dish, a broth can actually deliver the flavor elements to the palate, allowing the flavors to “push” one another and raise the overall flavor experience.

Serves 8 as an appetizer; 4 as a main dish

Ingredients

Enriched mushroom broth:
½ pound (8 ounces) crimini mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari (substitute soy sauce, if tamari is unavailable)
1 cup water
Up to 3 additional tablespoons of butter to enrich broth

Scallops:
16 fresh large scallops
Porcini dust (see preparation below)
Sea Salt and Fresh ground white pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Watercress for garnish

Preparation

Prepare the mushroom broth:
In a skillet combine the olive oil and butter.  Place over high heat allowing the butter to melt.  Add the mushrooms and season generously with sea salt.  Cook for 2 minutes, tossing occasionally allowing the mushrooms to release their liquid.  Add honey and stir to combine.  The mushrooms will brown quickly.  Add the lime juice, sherry vinegar and tamari.  Toss.  Remove from heat and transfer contents of the skillet to a small saucepan.  Set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove and add 1 cup of water.  Cook the water over high heat stirring continuously just to incorporate any remaining pan juices into the water.  Remove the skillet from the heat and the water to the saucepan with the mushroom mixture.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes.  Strain; reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

Prepare the porcini dust:
Pulverize 4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms in a blender.  Allow the dust to settle 30 seconds before removing the blender lid.

Prepare the scallops:
Pat the scallops dry and set aside.  Place the porcini dust in a small pinch (or preparation) bowl.  Place 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

Using your fingers, pinch a small amount of the porcini dust from the bowl and lightly dust the scallops on both sides.  Because the dust is potent, use care so as not to overpower the scallops with too much dust.  Lightly season with salt and pepper.

Place the scallops in the skillet.  Sear until browned on each side about 2 to 3 minutes and cooked just through.  Scallops will be just opaque on the interior.  Remove from skillet to a warmed plate.

Service

Finish broth:
To enrich the broth, heat the broth over medium-low heat.  Add 1 tablespoon butter at a time, whisking until melted and fully incorporated.  Add up to 2 additional tablespoons of butter (to taste).

Plate:
Place a few sprigs of crisp watercress on a warmed serving plate.  Arrange 2 scallops on top of the watercress.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the enriched broth over the scallops.  Garnish with watercress leaves.

Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Zotter

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